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Maybe you know Paula Patton for her early role in Hitch opposite Will Smith. Perhaps you were a fan of the background vocals she laid for Usher in the mid-2000s. Decades ago, maybe you saw her in a high school performance of The Crucible. But surely, with the release of BET+’s Sacrifice this November, your Patton association will take a new shape — as Daniella Hernandez, the quick-witted entertainment lawyer at the center of the much-anticipated series.
The show is a continuation of BET+’s 2019 feature film of the same title. And the original legal thriller — which also starred Patton — revolves around Hernandez’s experience navigating high-society Hollywood as a legal aid to the rich and famous. In short, she’s an asset to the stars, but not a star herself, which, as you can imagine, creates some social…complications.
The television continuation takes a similar course: Throughout the series, the show aims to dig deep into the psyche of a woman who struggles with addiction, romantic commitment, and the questionable ethics that come with defending debauchery on behalf of her clients. And for Patton, who has now spent years inhabiting Hernandez’s brain onscreen, the role is about as personal as it gets. “I’ve always connected with Daniella’s drive and strength,” she says. “She’s consumed with her career and she’s a total force. She always rises to the task at hand.”
So, in anticipation of the new show — which will stream on BET+ starting November 4 — we sat down with Patton to discuss her own experience navigating A-list Hollywood crowds, what she admires most about her onscreen character, and her advice to anyone looking to break into the industry. Ahead, take a look at her experience tackling the role before you start streaming.
What parts of Daniella Hernandez do you personally identify with most?
“Daniella’s spirit is a flame. She has a great combination of fire and passion, but she also has a truly compassionate side. She cares deeply about the people around her. In the show, you can tell she’s starting to really look at her life and question things. She’s exploring how she can live a better life — one where she can be proud to look in the mirror.”
Which parts of Daniella’s character are most difficult for you to access?
“The most difficult thing for me to connect with is her ruthlessness and her willingness to turn a blind eye to wrongdoing in order to achieve her goals. Unlike me, Daniella has an ability to turn off her feelings. It’s often difficult to play someone who can harden her heart like that. I’m all heart — so it was challenging for me.”
What are the characteristics you admire most about Daniella?
“What I admire most about Daniella is her tenacity. She truly never loses sight of her goals. And in spite of plentiful obstacles and challenges, she never falls down. Yes, she may wobble — but still, she never falls. Instead, she keeps persevering and working toward her goals. What I’ve tried to take away from that ethos in my own life is a sense of empowerment and the belief that you can absolutely accomplish anything if you really focus. In order to succeed, you have to have unwavering faith and determination.”
In many ways, the show exposes the dark underbelly of the Hollywood social scene. How does Sacrifice speak to your personal experience?
“My experience in Hollywood has been both good and bad. In some ways, Sacrifice touches on the things that are good, exciting, and joyful about this creative business. But at the same time, it also deals with the corrupt and ugly parts of this industry whereby people can be deceitful, greedy, and manipulative.
“I, personally, have experienced both of those sides of Hollywood life. There was a time when those challenging parts of the business deeply impacted me. But now, I work hard to focus on the good parts — and as a result, [being a part of this scene] has become a more enjoyable experience for me. I absolutely love acting, and I feel so blessed to be able to do what I do — so that’s the only part I focus on now.”
What are some ways you cope or step back when you need to reset?
“During this project, the best coping mechanism for me was to remind myself to be present in the moment and acknowledge my gratitude — through yoga, meditation, bike rides, hiking. Always, I make a point to listen to music every day, and to laugh with my coworkers. Plus, dancing gives me an amazing endorphin rush.”
What social advice might you give young actors or musicians entering the entertainment industry?
“I would tell the younger generation that their behavior will be remembered. When socializing, be aware of your integrity — and be mindful that, in Hollywood, often you’re dealing in business and not friendship.”
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